The Emergent Church

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As a denomination of 2 million members in 156 world areas, there are conversations on a variety of topics taking place within the Church of the Nazarene.


One discussion centers on “emergent” or “emerging” churches. This subject creates confusion and conflict in some circles. There are several issues related to “the emergent church.” Some are helpful and positive; others are problematic and troubling. This is compounded because those who self-identify as “emerging” reflect a wide array of positions and perspectives and differ among themselves.


There are authors with a significant readership who readily identify themselves as “emergent church leaders.” They are aware of the Church’s need to increase its engagement with society. Some are completely orthodox in their theology and views of Scripture, but others embrace positions that the Church of the Nazarene would view as unorthodox and therefore unacceptable.


Some of our pastors, superintendents and lay members believe that there is a certain segment within the Church of the Nazarene who is embracing a new “movement” filled with risks to our theological coherence as a denomination. They fear this direction will only serve to undermine the Church of the Nazarene with heresy.


Their concerns are seemingly reinforced by a few “emergent” leaders who have made statements that to them are troubling. These comments reflect theological positions denying several of the basic tenets of Scripture and orthodox Christianity as held by the Church of the Nazarene in our Articles of Faith.


There are others within our denomination, including pastors, superintendents and scholars, who view the concept of an “emerging” church as a positive and hopeful expression of what it means to be the Church. They are seeking to genuinely come to terms with ministry in a complex and rapidly-changing culture. Their goal is to demonstrate the relevance of biblical truth through incarnational and transformational living.


This latter group is deeply committed to the authority and infallibility of the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives, communities, and nations. They are often engaged with the brokenness in society through active, compassionate ministries working diligently to bring renewal, conversion, and transformation.


The Board of General Superintendents neither endorses nor affirms “emergent churches” or leaders who are not orthodox in their theology. “We Believe,” the statement issued by the BGS, clearly articulates the position of the Board regarding the Articles of Faith, the values, and the mission stated in the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene, encouraging Nazarenes everywhere to join them in embracing these vital truths. (See “Official Statements” on the website.)


The involvement of many Nazarenes in this conversation reveals a sincere desire to embrace our missional objectives. They are attempting to reach the emerging cultures around us while clearly articulating an orthodox interpretation of Scripture and theology.


John Wesley, founder of Methodism and a firm believer in the power of the Holy Spirit to sanctify and cleanse the heart of all unrighteousness, was intentionally and forcefully engaged in the social needs around him. In that same tradition, P. F. Bresee established the first “Church of the Nazarene” with a focus on both the physical and spiritual needs of people while calling men and women to make a total commitment to Christ and to the fullness of the Spirit in cleansing and heart purity.


This is the objective toward which Nazarenes, including those engaged in ministry to emerging cultures, are committed.


Any conversation of this nature carries with it the risk of being misunderstood or being classified with positions that are not healthy or appropriate. Issues involved in discussions such as these are often complex. The communication is sometimes at inappropriate volume levels.


Nonetheless, it is our hope and prayer that those in the Church of the Nazarene who are engaged in this conversation will do so with grace and humility. We believe it is possible to move beyond mischaracterizations, embrace what is legitimate, and reject any unorthodox positions without hesitation.


The Board of General Superintendents is engaged in study and conversations with numerous Nazarene scholars, pastors, districts superintendents and laity on this subject. Each general superintendent continues in prayer and in a careful search for what is true and best in all things related to Scripture and mission.


While the Board does not embrace anything that is heretical it does encourage healthy conversations among Nazarenes who are part of a holiness and Great Commission church.


A Statement on the Emergent ChurchLet us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ who lived, died, and was resurrected to save the lost and broken of the whole world. He is coming again, to set to right all things. The mission He gave to His Church was to announce and embody the Kingdom, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, and to visit the sick and imprisoned. His mission is our mission as well.


Board of General Superintendents
August 2010